MONDAY, May 4, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- While electronic health records are touted as the holy grail of a transparent health care system, a new study finds they don't improve treatment results for some stroke patients in the United States.
Patients fared about the same in terms of quality of care and illness progression whether their hospitals had embraced electronic health records or not, researchers report May 4 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The records "do not appear to be sufficient, at least as currently implemented, to improve overall quality of care or outcomes for this important disease state," lead author Dr. Karen Joynt, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, said in a journal news release.
Electronic health records provide a more comprehensive medical picture than records related to a single hospitalization.
Between 2007 and 2010, researchers looked at 1,236 hospitals, more than 500 of which used electronic health records. They found that the records made no difference to ischemic stroke patients' recovery even when they adjusted statistics for various patient characteristics.
However, the researchers did find that patients in hospitals with electronic records were discharged sooner.
Ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel to the brain is blocked, is by far the most common type of stroke.
The new study "is a wake-up call that we should heed," writes Dr. John Windle, chief of cardiology at University of Nebraska Medical Center, in an accompanying commentary. Windle said electronic health records haven't been proven to improve quality of health care, the health of large groups of people, or efficiency.
"An [electronic health record's] first priority must be support of clinical care, not documentation for billing and reimbursement," Windle said.
For more on electronic health records, see healthIT.gov.